Wireless connectivity will improve in the Barriere area by the end of the year, bringing an end to a rare but ongoing issue with cellphone connectivity in the region.
Barriere Mayor Bill Humphreys said the problem happened twice this year; first during the New Year’s Eve Bullarama and again with the North Thompson Fall Fair on the weekend.
The fair brought some 3,000 to 4,000 extra people to the small community — roughly three times the population. Humphreys said the wireless signal became so overloaded that “you can’t make a call to save your life.”
“It just stays dead on your screen and says ‘your connection cannot be established,’ ” he said Tuesday.
What concerns Humphreys is there will be an accident during these peak periods and no one will be able to phone for help, he said.
There was a rollover on Friday that sent one person to Royal Inland Hospital in critical condition. Fortunately, it happened late enough in the day that a phone call to 911 got through.
The connection issue has occurred once or twice a year for about the last three to four years, said Humphreys. The majority of the time residents can call without incident.
Telus spokesman Shawn Hall said an unexpected increase in demand for wireless service did cause network congestion in the area during the weekend.
“It’s the only congestion we’ve had on that site this year,” he said. “We apologize for any inconvenience that caused.”
Plans are in motion to increase the wireless capacity for Barriere by adding antennas to the existing tower, said Hall. Work will be completed by the end of December, with the upgrades costing in the neighourhood of $100,000.
Humphreys is glad the problem will be addressed.
“That’s good news.”
Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake said the problem was news to him.
While most of the North Thompson is under a wireless umbrella, there is still three to five per cent that isn’t, said Lake.